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Our daily bread in 2050

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The king of grains is feeding much of the world

By Kirsten Peters

These are the good times.
I was driving through the country last Saturday, looking at deer happily chowing down in wheat fields.
Everyplace is a drive-through if you’re a herbivore at this time of year.
It’s a simple historical fact that wheat farming has been central to American agriculture since the country was young.
And today wheat grown in the U.S. supplies American consumers and millions of other people around the world with large quantities of economical nutrition.
Even a geologist like myself knows that much about the king of grains.
But I was recently startled to learn that the temperatures experienced by American wheat farms back in 1839 were 6.6 degrees warmer than they are today.
That’s right, our wheat farmers are now working in temperatures substantially colder than they were earlier in the nation’s history.
At first I thought I had misread the statistic. After all, we know that temperatures in our country from about 1850 onward have been on the uptick as North America has emerged from a cooler time.
And, surely, if climate scientists are right, temperatures in just the past couple of decades are clearly up from what they used to be.
So how could modern American wheat farmers be facing much colder climes than they were in 1839?


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